It’s a little late for a new review on this film. It came out in 2019 but it didn’t get a lot of attention. Now it’s coming to Netflix, on April 16 Synchronic will be available to stream so I decided it’s the perfect time to get the word out. Starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan (who, not gonna lie, in the wake of the “Stackie” friendship, feels like a Walmart stand-in version of Sebastian Stan. It doesn’t help that he has almost nothing to do but act depressingly angsty the whole time), and was directed by the team behind the films The Endless, and Spring, Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson.
It’s got that same dreamlike, what the heck is happening, quality to it, only unlike its predecessor’s, something about Synchronic feels effortless. As if Moorhead and Benson made it quickly from a half-baked idea that was leftover from all their other projects, though it’s hypnotic enough to keep your interest and imprint on your memory.
Synchronic is a mix of big and small. It takes a simple story and then throws it into a mind-twisting concept that focuses primarily on time and how the past, present, and future are simply divided by perception. In a way, it reminds me of Pokemon Go only because, like that annoyingly popular game, Synchronic highlights the things we cannot see. In Pokemon Go, the player needed the use of an app to look for Pokemon and would only be able to see them if they looked through their phone’s screen. During the hype of this game, I often imagined that a Pokemon was standing right beside me but I was unable to see it. I would look behind me and start talking to a Charizard I imagined was standing there.
Although not nearly as silly, Synchronic is oddly similar.
Steve (Mackie) and Dennis (Dornan) are lifelong best friends who work together as late-night paramedics. They each have their own personal troubles which are that they crave the other’s social life. Dennis has a wife, children, and lives in domesticity while Steve is a detached ladies’ man, but both feel hollow inside, and trust me, it shows. But that’s just the boring backdrop used for plot motivation, the real story involves the series of strange deaths they’ve been encountering while on the job. Each death appears to be drug-related but no one has any real explanation for how they happen. Their only clue is a tiny packet labeled Synchronic at each crime scene.
As it turns out, Synchronic is a “designer” drug created especially for people to experience time travel. Its purpose is to allow the user to leave their own time for a total of seven minutes. Taking the drug will transport them to a new moment in time, usually the past, and even allow them to interact with whatever is there. However, like everything, there is a catch. For one, the past is rarely kind and there is no way to control where you go when you take the drug. It’s like walking into Jigsaw’s playhouse with a blindfold. You might walk into a pit of chainsaws or you might just walk into a door and live to see another few minutes.
Another catch is the way the drug works. The drug affects the pineal gland but when taken by children, whose pineal glands have yet to fully develop, there is a chance that they might not come back from their trip, which is exactly what happens to Dennis’s daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides). After realizing he has cancer and has yet to fully live a life worth living for, Steve decides he’ll do whatever it takes to save his best friend’s daughter.
Big and small, some half-baked with a bit of genius, it’s a perfectly congenital film with just enough mystery to keep your eyes on the screen and just enough horror to make you wish Moorhead and Benson would go more Lovecraftian every once and a while. The human relationships and the emotional impact they attempt to make are its weak points only because Mackie and Dornan aren’t very believable as BFFs, but it does its best and is effective to a certain degree. Mackie holds the entire thing on his shoulders, everyone else is just white noise behind him.
The true genius of Synchronic is the drug itself and its take on time travel. Everyone has a vice they use to escape reality and in the case of Synchronic, all the characters want to escape themselves. The drug presents them with this exact option. It’s a representative of all drugs in their rawest, most philosophical form.
Synchronic has one of the best opening scenes of the films released in 2019, a masterpiece of arthouse sci-fi horror. Very ominous and grotesque, beautiful and smartly constructed, like a violin made from human bones playing a tune in a haunted house once owned by a blood-drinking demon cult. If anything elevated my opinion on this film, it was that opening sequence.(4 / 5)
All photos are property of XYZ Films and Patriot Pictures